Earth Matters: PopEd Launches New Edition of High School Curriculum

With the start of the 2018-19 school year, PopEd is launching a new edition of its high school curriculum, Earth Matters: Studies for Our Global Future. The target audiences are teachers of Environmental Science, Biology, and World and Human Geography. Like earlier editions, this new fifth edition of Earth Matters aims to foster understanding of the complexities of population pressures, climate change, natural resource use, wildlife endangerment, distribution of wealth and food, urbanization, public health, gender equity, consumerism, economic progress, and how all of these issues are interrelated.

It’s been six years since the fourth edition was published (as a CD-ROM), and much has changed in the trends that shape our world and the technology that enables classroom learning since then. For the fifth edition, we started from scratch on all of the student readings to capture the most relevant trends, challenges, and progress on key environmental and social issues related to population dynamics. Our “teacher-favorite” activities from past editions were all updated and new lesson plans were created to address emerging topics. And, best of all, we’ve transitioned the curriculum to be entirely online, making it easy for our curriculum team to keep the content current.

The issues covered in Earth Matters are interdisciplinary, resulting in materials that are highly cross-curricular. The readings and activities enhance knowledge and skills in social science (geography, economics, government, and world/U.S. history), hard science (environmental and biology), math, and language arts. Of all of PopEd’s curriculum products, Earth Matters goes furthest in encouraging student inquiry and exploration of often-complex topics. It is especially relevant for two Advanced Placement (AP) courses — AP Environmental Science and AP Human Geography — which are designed to introduce students to college-level content and to hone skills in research, writing, and critical thinking.

The activities in Earth Matters are written to accommodate a variety of learning styles. The emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning engages students of different strengths and abilities and especially lends itself to an inclusive classroom. Activity formats include labs, role-playing simulations, mathematical modeling, debate, guided research, resource management games, data analysis, policy development, and more.

All of the activities are matched to curriculum standards for all 50 states and 10 Canadian provinces, plus frameworks for AP courses and the Next Generation Science Standards.

Earth Matters by the Numbers

  • 15 new background readings (one for each unit) that provide a readable overview of the primary issues in environmental science and human geography
  • 20 new case studies that focus on timely topics (e.g. threats to pollinators and climate refugees) and inspiring projects that are making a difference (e.g. urban gardens and anti-poverty initiatives)
  • 44 teaching activities that include updated classics as well as new lessons on global migration trends, megacities, life cycle analysis of everyday products, the Sustainable Development Goals, and much more
  • 31 infographics for sharing with students
  • Nearly 400 recommended resources for further research including the latest websites, apps, online videos, insightful articles, and books

A Sampling of New Activities in Earth Matters, Fifth Edition

Like Oil and Water: Students use the engineering design process to create and test prototypes for cleaning up oil spills and rehabilitating marine birds.

Migration Stories: In small groups, students take on the role of real-world migrants in different regions of the globe and take turns in the “hot seat” to answer questions about their unique journey. In the process, they examine the range of motivating “push-pull” factors and the challenges migrants and their new host countries face.

Secret Life of Tees: Students use guided research to perform a five-stage life cycle analysis on a T-shirt and brainstorm ways to reduce the garment’s social and environmental impact.

Tale of Three Megacities: At databank stations, students analyze articles, graphs, and images about three megacities (Lagos, Tokyo, and São Paulo), and compare the social, political, economic, and environmental issues across the cities.

Trash Trouble in Paradise: Role playing a city council meeting, students weigh various real-world economic, social, and environmental factors when siting a landfill on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu.

Carbon Crunch: Students visually represent the per capita CO2 emissions from 14 different countries and determine each country’s vulnerabilities to climate change (including sea level rise, extreme weather, and agricultural impacts.)

Earth Matters is password-protected. Teachers have the option of accessing the entire curricula online or downloading individual units. Visit

One thought on “Earth Matters: PopEd Launches New Edition of High School Curriculum

  1. I love these topics that should be used in school! They are crucial to know and learn for our future. I am in high school and the school system is majorly outdated. I really want to see students learning this rather than anything else!!!

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